Long-term care program legislation now in Senate

OLYMPIA — Legislation that establishes a long-term care program by having workers pay 0.58 percent of their wages into a trust account is supported by the North Olympic Peninsula’s three 24th District Democratic legislators, they said last week.

The Long-Term Care Trust Act — 2SHB 1087 — would cost a worker who makes $40,000 annually $232 a year beginning in 2022.

The House bill was co-sponsored by 24th District state Rep. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend.

The legislation would provide up to $36,500 in lifetime benefits for an individual beginning Jan. 1, 2025 that could be paid to family members who are providing the care.

Beneficiaries would eligible for 25 hours of care per week in one’s own home, five to six months in a nursing home, or five years of training and support for a family caregiver beginning Jan. 1, 2025 (tinyurl.com/PDN-LongTerm Care).

It passed the House 63-33 on Feb. 21, easily making the March 13 deadline for lawmakers to pass bills out of their house of origin.

It had its first public hearing Friday in the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care. The committee will conduct an executive session Wednesday on the bill.

Legislators have surpassed the halfway point of the session, which ends April 28.

Bills that were approved for further consideration included tax-credit-based E3SHB 1324, approved 97-0 and co-sponsored by 24th District state Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles, creating the Rural Development and Opportunity Zone Act.

Under the legislation, reduced business-and-occupation taxes are extended for certain timber-related activities.

Tharinger, Chapman and 24th District state Sen. Van De Wege of Sequim have joined a list of Long-Term Care Act supporters that include the AARP, Adult Family Home Council, Service Employees International Union 775, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

The legislation will “mitigate our communities’ largest uninsured risk, provide security for families before they impoverish themselves to qualify for care, provide resources for family caregivers to support loved ones as they age at home,” according to the Agencies on Aging.

No one testified against the legislation at House hearings in the Health Care & Wellness and Appropriations committees.

“It’s an important piece of legislation that will help folks save for long-term care,” Tharinger, a member of the Health Care & Wellness Committee, said Friday.

Most retirees have little money saved for long-term care, Tharinger said.

Medicare generally does not cover long-term care except in certain circumstances, according to medicare.com.

Apple Health (Washington Medicaid) covers the cost of nursing home care for residents who have a functional need and meet the financial criteria, according to www.medicaidplanningassistance.org.

“The long-term care insurance market has gotten super, super expensive,” Tharinger said.

“People have pretty much decided this is the way to go.”

Chapman said that, in the long run, the legislation will save taxpayers’ money.

“This is one way for us to strategically collect funds up front to cover needs that will be there.”

Van De Wege said the 24th District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County, especially needs the legislation due to its elderly population.

Jefferson County’s median age, the highest in the state in 2010 at 54 years old was 58 in 2017, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

In 2010, Jefferson County’s share of the state’s population that was 65 or older was 26.3 percent.

Clallam County’s median age was 50.5 in 2017, with 26 percent to 35.6 percent 65 and older in 2010.

“This is not a broad entitlement,” Van De Wege added.

People will draw from the trust account who need assistance with daily-life activities such as bathing, dressing and personal hygiene.

Providers could include unpaid family caregivers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

According to a state-funded study on long-term care, 70 percent of people older than age 65 will need long-term care, which is not covered by Medicare unless it is medical care.

Opportunity zone

Chapman spearheaded creation of the opportunity zone legislation — HB 1324 — and saw a good chance for Senate passage.

“The fact that it came out unanimously off the House floor definitely helps,” he said Friday.

A tax credit, which would offset a person’s tax liability, would be given to taxpayers who make a capital contribution to a Rural Development and Distressed Opportunity Zone Fund, according to the bill report (tinyurl.com/PDN-OpportunityZone).

Under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, investors defer paying taxes on capital gains invested in opportunity zones designated by governors. Distressed areas are based on factors including unemployment rate and population.

The bill establishes an insurance premium tax credit and a business and occupation tax credit.

Chapman said it would free millions of dollars of investment capital to rural communities, including those in the 24th District.

It will help companies such as Port Townsend Paper and McKinley Paper Co. in Port Angeles, whose reduced business and occupation tax, set to expire July 1, 2024, will extend to July 1, 2036, he said.

The tax credit is revoked if an investor does not meet certain thresholds for growth investments that are eligible for the program.

Growth investments must be “highly beneficial to the economic growth of the state,” according to the report.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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